(NaturalNews) At first glance, many readers of Natural News will think the National Animal Identification System (NAIS) is nothing that concerns them because they eat only plant based foods. However, NAIS is only one part of a much bigger issue. The implementation of NAIS directly threatens the ability of everyone to eat locally grown, organic, and sustainable foods, including fruits and vegetables. NAIS is the first step in the final round of the takeover and regulation of all agricultural products, including plant based foods and supplements. Once NAIS is implemented it will be easy for growers of all agricultural products to be pushed around, intimidated and finally taken over by big agribusiness and its best friend, the government. NAIS is the next step in the destruction of the freedom to eat as we choose and enhance our health with supplements.
If you are opposed to the loss of liberty and the expansion of government tyranny that NAIS represents, your help is urgently needed to block the next step in its implementation. Comments must be received at the USDA by March 16, 2009. Specific information and a link to sample comments appear at the end of this article.
NAIS hands over production of food to factory farms
NAIS is a system of regulation that poses a serious threat to consumers of organic animal products. As a consequence of the implementation of NAIS, the small scale farmers and ranchers who produce high quality products meeting the certifying standards to be labeled as organic will be put out of business. NAIS stacks all the cards against small organic farmers in favor of the huge factory farms owned by big agribusiness that produce products that in many cases are not fit to eat.
A recently proposed rule mandates the NAIS Premises Identification Number (PIN) as the sole means of identifying properties for official USDA purposes. This rule also mandates the use of the NAIS numbering system for ear tags. All animal tagging is required to be linked to the NAIS PIN.
NAIS will drive small and medium-sized farmers and ranchers out of business, increasing the consolidation of the food supply into the hands of a few large, multinational corporations. These are the corporations who have shown again and again that they have nothing but contempt for their customers. The NAIS wastes taxpayer dollars on a program that will lead to increased food prices and decreased food quality.
What is NAIS?
NAIS has no specific legislative authorization. No input from farmers, ranchers or homesteaders has been sought in its creation. NAIS is a result of the same international trade negotiations in Uruguay that produced the World Trade Organization and gave rise to CODEX alimentarius. The National Institute for Animal Agriculture, the organization that represents major meat producers such as Cargill, major manufacturers of tag and tag reader equipment, and major trade associations such as the National Pork Producers Council asked the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to begin implementing NAIS in 2002.
As a result, the USDA has been working for over five years to force NAIS onto American animal owners, although several coalitions of farmers and ranchers have been formed to block it.
NAIS is designed to identify and track each and every individual livestock and poultry animal owned by family farmers, hobby farmers, homesteaders, and pet owners across the country. If made mandatory, the program will compel every person with even one animal on their premises to register their homes and property into a government database and subject their property and animals to government surveillance, in direct violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.
Under the current plans, each animal would have to be identified and physically tagged, in many cases with radio frequency tags or microchips. Factory farms would be able to identify whole groups of animals with one number, but most regular farmers, ranchers and individuals would have to identify each animal individually. "Events" in the animal's life would required reporting to the database within 24 hours. The information in the database would be kept by state government or private companies, while the federal government would have the right to access this data as it deems necessary.
Although initiated as a voluntary program, the USDA has been pushing and in some cases coercing people to sign up. This new rule and the implementation of the PIN would effectively remove the last vestige of voluntarism from the program, as it would require registration under the PIN into the database for any activity involving disease control.
Premise registration would be automatic any time veterinary services personnel conduct an "activity" related to a federal disease control program, including such activities as certification or surveillance. Moreover, veterinarians are expected to provide information on their clients to government authorities to facilitate registration. The proposed rule clearly mandates that all locations with disease program activity will be identified with a NAIS PIN, and the property address will remain in the NAIS database whether the property owner is in agreement or not.
The USDA claims that NAIS is a disease tracking program, but has refused to provide any support for this claim. In reality, NAIS will replace state run, existing, well functioning disease response and brand inspection programs with an untested, expensive and unreliable system. It will also impose high costs and government surveillance on every farmer, rancher and animal owner for no significant benefit, and will force many small producers out of business.
NAIS will result in a decrease in food safety
Animal diseases are not prevented or controlled by NAIS, and NAIS does nothing to improve food safety for consumers. The initiative is not intended for this purpose. NAIS expands corporate profits, not consumer safety. Contamination of food generally happens after the food leaves the farm or ranch. Contamination is found at the slaughterhouse, food processing and handling facilities, or during food preparation, long after NAIS stops doing anything to collect information that would help in a response. NAIS does nothing to address the risks associated with slaughterhouse practices or the failure of the USDA to enforce current laws.
Because NAIS tracking ends at the time of slaughter, NAIS will not prevent food borne illnesses such as e. coli or salmonella contamination. Food safety is better served by focusing on programs such as increased testing for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or Mad Cow), improved oversight of slaughterhouses and food processing facilities, and increased inspections of imported foods.
The NAIS will heavily burden small, organic, and sustainable farmers, which will hurt efforts to develop safer, decentralized, local food systems. As evidenced in the recent peanut butter recalls, having a centralized food processing and distribution system means that contamination in even one plant can lead to deaths and illnesses of thousands all over the country, and create problems very difficult to track and isolate. Consumers clearly support a local, sustainable food supply, which means the agencies need to write rules that work for small independent farmers, instead of rules such as NAIS that were designed for the benefit of vertically integrated centralized animal feeding operations.
To the extent that contamination occurs despite efforts at prevention, trace back efforts should focus on tracing the meat, rather than the animals. USDA currently avoids tracing contaminated meat from the processor back to the slaughterhouse, as in the case of the e. coli contaminated ground beef that was found at John Munsell's packing plant. While USDA focused its efforts on shutting down Munsell's family run packing plant, the agency refused to address whether the contamination had actually occurred at the ConAgra slaughterhouse that supplied the meat to Munsell. Within a few months, one woman died and dozens of others were made sick from beef traced to the Con Agra slaughterhouse, resulting in one of the largest recalls of meat in history. Tracing of the meat from the packing plant to the slaughterhouse might have prevented the illnesses and saved millions of dollars. This sort of tracking program would be far more beneficial and far cheaper than NAIS.
Costs are high and benefits are low with NAIS
Costs involved in the implementation and use of NAIS include: (1) the development, maintenance, and update of massive databases; (2) the costs of tags, most of which will contain microchips, and computerized tag reading equipment; (3) the labor burdens for tagging every animal; (4) the paperwork burdens of reporting routine movements that include eating one of your chickens for dinner or taking your horse out for a ride, and; (5) the costs of enforcement on millions of individuals. The databases needed to register the properties, identify each animal, and record billions of "events" will dwarf any system currently in existence.
NAIS diverts resources from more critical needs such as disease testing, disease prevention through improved animal husbandry practices, and disease detection in currently uninspected livestock imports.
Because of the costs and government intrusion of NAIS, future farmers will choose not to go into farming, while current producers will decide not to stay in farming. This will result in less competition, greater reliance on foreign imports and poor quality at higher prices.
NAIS creates disincentives for people to seek veterinary care for their animals and participate in existing disease control programs. Animal owners who object to NAIS may avoid participating in programs beneficial to the health of their animals because it would mean automatic registration into the program. This would increase health risks to the public and to other farm operations.
In the end, it is the consumer as well as the small farmer and rancher who will bear the burden for the high costs of NAIS.
You can help put an end to NAIS
It is critical that the USDA and Congress hear from the millions of people who will be adversely affected by the NAIS program. This includes animal owners, consumers who care about locally produced, organic, and sustainable foods, taxpayers who object to wasteful government programs and expanding government bureaucracy, advocates for a safe food system, and anyone who wishes to continue to have access to nourishing food and supplements.
Step 1: Submit comments to the USDA online or by mail. The comments must be received at the USDA by March 16, 2009.
Barbara is a school psychologist, a published author in the area of personal finance, a breast cancer survivor using "alternative" treatments, a born existentialist, and a student of nature and all things natural.